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Big Wheel

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Following the dissolution of Louisville, KY's seminal post-hardcore punkers Squirrel Bait, lead singer Peter Searcy put together the calmer, more traditional Big Wheel. Squirrel Bait had drawn from the thrashy punk-pop of bands like Hüsker Dü and the Replacements, and Searcy's vocals had drawn comparisons to Paul Westerberg. With Big Wheel, Searcy's music matured in a rough parallel to Westerberg and Bob Mould, drawing from jangly collegiate rock and reflective singer/songwriters like early Elton John and James Taylor. He co-founded the band with guitarist and songwriting collaborator Glenn Taylor, not long after Squirrel Bait's breakup. Taylor was then playing in a local cover band with bassist Mike Braden and drummer Scott Lankford, who both joined Big Wheel as well. A demo tape got them a deal with Giant/Rockville, and in 1989 they issued their debut album, East End, most of which would have fit comfortably into the adult alternative rock format that would emerge a few years later. Difficulties with their label left Big Wheel in legal limbo for a frustratingly long time, but they were eventually able to move over to the Mammoth label. Lankford had departed in the midst of the sessions for the band's second album, and was replaced by Tom Tompkins. That second album, Holiday Manor, was released in 1992 and featured more polished, commercial production, but failed to break the band onto alternative radio. 1993's Slowtown was their most critically acclaimed album, reinventing Searcy's Squirrel Bait angst in the context of a wistful, evocative set of mature pop songs. It too failed to win Big Wheel a wider audience, and bassist Braden departed; his replacement, Dave Ernst, proved to be a divisive presence, and Big Wheel disbanded by the end of 1993. Searcy and Tompkins soon formed Starbilly, which released its lone album in 1995; Searcy subsequently moved to Atlanta and resurfaced in 2000 with his solo debut, Could You Please and Thank You.

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Louisville, KY

Years Active:

'80s, '90s